Last Saturday, I was invited to take in the 2 PM showing of the play The Secrets of a Black Boy by Darren Anthony. Knowing exactly what the play was about had me anxious with anticipation waiting to see what would unfold on stage. It was a play that brought up many pertinent questions, and it also gave insight into the perspective of a black male. From spousal abuse and interracial dating to education and gentrification – those topics and more were brought to light from the perspective of 5 men and 1 youngin. These men snuck into the closed Regent Park community center to play their last game of dominoes in a place that held lots of fond memories but is on schedule to be demolished because of the influx of new condos and big corporate companies pushing themselves into the area.
The opening minutes of the play covered the many facets of life that the black man has endured over time. Beginning as a tribesman providing for his family, then only to be shackled and taken into slavery. Being led into the Civil Rights Movement to fight injustices, only to be torn down by gang banging and disarray. Lastly, coming to a full stop to the first black President of the United States and how we intend to walk forward from here.
The characters were as follows: DJ O – resident community DJ. Jerome (Darren Anthony) – a cool cat with a quick temper who we later learn has to deal with his father’s, as well as his own domestic abuse demons. Sean (Shomari Downer) – a man who is unapologetically attracted to white women because, in his eyes, black women have given up on the “you can’t do nothing for me” black man. Sheldon (Al St. Louis) – the community leader and do right family man who deals with the ongoing struggle of paving the way for himself and others in the community. Jakes (Troy Crossfield) – a man fighting with coming to terms while watching his secret homosexual relationship come crashing down around him, and lastly, Biscuit (Samson Brown) – the youngin who is traumatized by his brother’s death by gun violence and who is more versed in the fast life than real life.
The play was highlighted by many lighthearted and comical moments like the “Ten Wifey Checklist,” along with a little music lesson for the youngin that prompted an impromptu acapella of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” coupled with choreographed dance steps. But it did manage to bring attention to the many ongoing issues that rest in the mind of the black male. Also, a moment was taken to remember Trayvon Martin during a step number performed by the cast. The play, on the whole, was entertaining and definitely made you pose a lot of questions to yourself and will, in turn, foster some much-needed discussion. The acting falters during some spots in the play, however, it is enough to convey the message across. Unfortunately for me, the flashbacks were a tad confusing. Trying to keep up with what character was stepping into what role for the moment was not really that fluid, but it did the job. It received a standing ovation from a packed auditorium at the end, stating that this is most likely going to be an audience favourite for new viewers.
After the show was a media Q&A session with the cast, writer and producer that was amazing, but short-lived because of the time and unfortunately about 90% of the theatre already booked out. Questions like “How are we raising our black men? Like sheep or wolves?” “Are people really interested in what black men have to say?” “What is the response to everything, how do we build?” and more all came to pass for discussion. I think that a formal Q&A session should be set up outside of the show. If those attendees can come out to see a play, I would think and hope that they would come out in droves to participate in an in-depth discussion about the matters the play brings to light. After all, they go hand in hand. Even in entertainment purposes, this play is a definite catalyst for discussion, so don’t sleep on that. To my knowledge, The Secrets of a Black Boy will be making it’s way to North Carolina. Take it in and if you do, let me know what you think. Remember, nothing comes out of staying silent, but imagine what ideas can arise through sharing and discussion.